Walk Wednesday route on the Gower – Pitton via Rhossili

Gower walk from Pitton via Rhossili - coast view to MewsladeThis weeks #walkwednesday route is a beautiful route taking in sea views and the inner countryside of the Gower. With gentle up and down across Rhossili downs plus countryside paths, it features some stiles returning via the cliff path towards Mewslade bay. The Gower is an area of outstanding natural beauty and after doing this walk it is not hard to see why. Getting the best of the sea views and the unspoilt interior you’ll leave this walk refreshed.

Although the map suggests a starting point down in the village of Pitton, you can just as easily start it from the parking for Mewslade Bay or at Rhossili beach itself. At just under nine miles it’s a perfect short days stroll – we reckon between easy and moderate. You can also get the route directly to your mobile if you have Viewranger as it is available FREE for anyone to download. Simply print or follow the route below and let us know how you got on in the comments below.

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Just what is the layering system for outdoor clothing?

Now you may have heard about the layering system before and are wondering just what do people mean by it? Simply put, the layering system enables you to change or adjust your clothes and remain comfy with whatever variety of conditions that Mother Nature might throw at you. It does this by utilising multiple layers that manage sweat, trap air to keep you warm and protect you from the elements. You can then shed or put on layers based on how hot or cold you are many thinner layers being better at doing this job than just one thick layer. These layers can be broken down in to three distinct categories to do three very different jobs.

1) Base Layer – Not a position in a choir but the bottom of our layering system that goes next to your skin. It’s job is to get rid of the sweat you produce.

2) Mid layer – This is the bit that delivers the warmth, trapping air and keeping you snug.

3) Shell Layer – The protection from the elements, wind, rain and snow.


Base Layers

Base LayerJob numero uno is to push or wick sweat away from your skin, keeping you cool in summer and stopping cold sweat hanging around to give you chills in winter. A base layer is the next to skin layer so thats undies, shirts, long johns & vests. Cotton is a no-no as it keeps moisture close to your skin so my first tip is ditch the T-shirt when heading outside. My top choices are synthetic or merino wool base layers based on what the weather is doing.

Synthetics

  • Wick sweat quickly
  • Dry quickly
  • Inexpensive
  • Can pong after a day or two!
  • My choice for summer

Merino Wool

  • Adds an element of insulation.
  • Wicks sweat and dries OK, but not as quickly as a synthetic
  • Doesn’t pong
  • My choice as a winter base layer


Mid Layer

FleeceBring the warmth people, time for the mid layer. This part of the puzzle does the lions share of keeping you warm. There are a variety of different examples you can get from your standard fleece, synthetic fabrics such as Primaloft, through to goose down (puffy jackets) and merino wool which can also be used as a mid layer in it’s thicker varieties. We’ve gone through these in more detail in our guide to Insulation here, but in short,

  • Goose Down – Best as an outer layer or mid layer for really cold conditions.
  • Merino wool – Great for long journeys as it doesn’t pong and is seriously environmentally friendly.
  • Synthetic Insulation – Gives warmth when wet, so a good contender for UK Conditions.
  • Fleece – Our pick of the bunch for starting out and as a general all rounder.

I reckon that nearly everyone has a fleece layer somewhere in their wardrobe and as the best value and all rounder, it would be my first choice for UK conditions. It wicks, is breathable, drys quickly and retains heat brilliantly if protected by an outer shell. You can get differing weights of fleece from microfleece, to mid-weight fleece to heavyweight depending on how cold it is (or how much you feel the cold!) My top tip whatever you choose for your midlayer is to keep it close fitting, that way it does a better job of trapping air and keeping you warm – don’t be tempted to go for a baggy fit.


Outer Shell

Outer ShellThe protector, keeping the other layers dry and sheltered so they can do their job in peace and quiet. You’ve got a couple of options here;

  • Waterproof / Breathable shells – Will keep the wind and the rain out and will let your sweat out to some degree. You have a variety of choices between own brand examples such as North Face’s Hyvent and better known fabrics like Gore-tex or eVent. I find these are best for the conditions we get there in the UK and Europe with wind, rain and everything in between.
  • Waterproof/ Non-breathable shells – The sort of thing you wore as a kid. Don’t go there folks, there lies a cold and uncomfortable day out with sweat unable to escape and staying on the inside making you cold and clammy.
  • Water resistant / Breathable shells – These will keep the wind out and varying amounts of rain, breathing better than their waterproof cousins. Examples include things like wind shirts, through to soft shell jackets which offer a little more protection. Useful if you are cycling, climbing, running etc, working hard and generating a lot of heat where breathability is more important than getting a little damp.
  • Insulated Shells – Will keep you warm and protected,  most are not waterproof and can be too hot for all but the coldest weather in my experience.


Lastly

So there we have the three parts of the layering system. Just before I take my leave, there are two extra bits of clothing that I feel have the biggest impact on your comfort, namely hats and gloves. These are the only layers you can have in your pocket which you can take on and off whilst on the move. Thinner in summer and thicker in winter, I never go out in to the mountains without either and nor should you!

Would love to hear what your thoughts are on your outdoor clobber when you head outside, do you agree with what I have said? What’s your favourite piece of outdoor clothing?

 

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How to reproof your waterproof gear.

Having a coat that’s lost it’s breathability and soaks up rain makes for a seriously uncomfortable day out. After our guide to washing down products, we’ve had a fair few requests from folks whose waterproofs have started to be, well, slightly less than waterproof! All jackets slowly lose their ability to repel water, to have rain bead or “rest” on the outside and that’s without even taking in to account your gear getting dirty. So if have been wondering just how to get that new jacket performance back, we’ve put together this guide on how to get your togs repelling water, and breathing easy again with Nikwax.

Rain beading on a waterproof jacketThere are two things you can do to get your jacket working as good as new. First up Washing. You need to wash your jacket first to ensure it is clean, and in case it’s necessary make sure any reproofing can go on easily. In many cases simply washing your jacket will have it back performing near it’s best. It isn’t just a case of washing in normal detergent though as that will make things worse for technical outdoor gear. You need a specialist wash that will get rid of any residues that block breathability and attract water to make your gear “wet out”. There are a few products that will do this, but we really like Nikwax Tech wash for the washing bit. Not only does the hippy in me like it (it’s water based and environmentally friendly man) but it won’t damage the water repellent treatments on the outside of your jacket, nor any waterproof membrane either. To get the best results we reckon our foolproof instructions below will have you covered;

  1. Clean your detergent dispenser. Very important this bit, if there is any gunk left from your day to day washing, it’ll clog the pores of your gear, stop it breathing as well as stopping any reproofer from going on effectively afterwards.
  2. Run your washing machine on it’s hottest wash with nothing in it. This is doing exactly the same thing as cleaning your dispenser by getting rid of the gunk inside. If you have a really grotty machine you might want to do it twice :-) As a side note, our resident Dorset washing repair man Laurie reckons you should do this once in a while anyway to stop stuff building up that can damage your washing machine.
  3. Get your gear ready. Loosen all draw cords and close all zips and Velcro so the jacket doesn’t catch. If there are any really filthy bits, rub a bit of neat Tech wash directly on to the affected area(s).
  4. Wash a maximum of two items. Simples really, ensures that your stuff gets properly clean.
  5. Follow your clothes care instructions.  Most washes should be on a delicate/synthetic wash with a slow spin to stop abrasion of your gear, follow the instruction label on your gear first and foremost.
  6. Allow to dry naturally. This is really important if you are using a spray on reproofer later.
Nikwax at Webtogs



Just in case you didn't know what a washing machine looked like.
Most times simply washing your jacket will bring back the ability for water to roll off your gear. If it doesn’t though, you’ll need to head on and take a further step, reproofing your jacket to bring water repellency back to “shiny brand new coat” time. There are loads of old wives tales about what you should wash your jacket in for this bit. After an article in Trail recently, Fabric conditioner was shown to be a great reproofer, with water beading sweetly on the outside after a wash. However, breathability of the jacket was then transformed in to something similar to a plastic bag! There are a few options but again we like our mates at Nikwax, specifically their TX Direct stuff. There are several options from spray on to wash in, we reckon that wash in is the easiest solution and best for fabrics without a backing scrim such as Paclite, Marmot’s Membrain or Montane’s Atomic DT etc  as it means you won’t iss any spots. With 3 layer fabrics, Gore-Tex themselves recommend a spray on solution to stop the scrim becoming water repellent. Either way as with the Tech wash it’s earth mama time, having no flurocarbons, solvents or bad stuff that will damage planet earth.
Assuming you have followed the instructions above for washing your gear, you won’t need to clean out your washing machine again so it’s just the following;

  1. Maximum of two items. Same as above
  2. Follow your clothes care instructions. Delicate or synthetic wash on a slow spin thanks people.
  3. Warm dry your coat. This last bit isn’t critical but we find that heat ensures that repellency treatments lasts longer. Our order of preference for most effectiveness is tumble dry on a low setting if your garment allows it, shoving it on a hot radiator, popping in an airing cupboard, putting it out to dry in the hot sunshine, or (and be very careful here…) Ironing it on a very low setting.

And there you have it. The Webtogs easy peasy guide to getting your coat back in to full weather battle mode once again. Our buddy Hendrik over at Hiking in Finland did a great review of the Nikwax stuff which still has us chuckling away. Take a look below if you want some full on Finnish German bearded reproofing madness!

Have any of you folks reproofed your gear recently? If you have any tips for reproofing or keeping your waterproofs in good nick, post up in the comments below!>

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Sixpenny Handley Dorset round walk.

Sixpenny Handley round walk

This weeks #walkwednesday route we thought we would post here for you to share. This is a cracking walk we did as part of the Dorset Backpackers meet recently. We were camping at Church Farm for the weekend, but you can start at the Church instead and walk through to the start. Starting at Sixpenny Handley you walk through prime Dorset, Wiltshire and Hampshire countryside taking in woods, fields and stunning views from the top of Pentridge Down.
START OS ST 9956 1727

Distance: 17 km (10 miles)

Max Altitude: 182 m

Min Altitude: 72 m

Height Gain: 323 m

Height Loss: 332 m

DIRECTIONS
  • Starting at the church, take the left hand turning on the corner of the road outside to head up to Church Farm campsite.
  • Go past the campsites cafe/toilet block on the left hand side and turn right through a gap in the hedge following a path to the left hand side of the track.
  • Come out through a gap in the hedge and follow the right hand side of the field. Turn left along the boundary of the second field you come to and head for the houses opposite.

start of the walk

  • Once over the field cross the stile and carry straight on up Oaskley Lane which becomes a track.
  • Keep following the path until you cross the A354, take a path to the left hand side of the garage and follow the path in to the middle of the next field, heading slightly right away from the left hand edge of the field.
  • The post pointing the way was down so pay attention! When in the centre of the field you join another path from behind and head down and left to the bottom corner of the field.
  • Go through a gate and join a track until you get to a muddy T Junction where you head right, bending round to the left steeply uphill.
  • Head left for the clump of gorse bushes in the centre of Pentridge Hill and up to a wooded area to join a path to the right of it.

view from Pentridge down

  • Follow the ridge on Pentridge Down with some quite stunning views. Bear left away from the path downhill towards a farm.
  • Rejoin the path heading past Whitey Top Farm and turn left along the road at the bottom (Earthpits Lane).
  • Take the first road on the right (Morgans Lane) and swing left in between the buildings following the path to Pentridge Church – a super lunch spot.

St Rumbolds, Pentridge

  • Coming back out of the church, head left up on the path in front of cottages to follow the left hand side of the field back on to the road.
  • At a sharp dog leg left on the left (Peaked Post), follow the path to the right through a wooded section and take the left hand branch shortly afterwards.
  • Follow the path along the right hand side of the field then switch to the other side of the hedge half way along towards Bokerley Farm.
  • Follow the path to the road and turn left and cross the A354 to take the road virtually opposite in to Woodyates.
  • Where the road curves to the right, take the path off to the left and follow the path behind some houses, tracking the path as it curves around to cross over the road up to Woodyates Manor. Continue following the path on a solid track across fields until you come to a road.
  • Follow the road for a short distance and then turn right in to Garston Wood. Follow the path through the wood then turn left along a path heading left out of the wood along fields.
  • It get’s a little muddy here but keep going with a hedge on your left hand side until you get to a quiet road – turn left.
  • After a couple of hundred yards or so find a path heading downhill to the left of a group of houses to join Dean Lane. Turn left.
  • Follw Dean lane past the road on your right (dean lane drove) then take a right afterwards to follow a footpath up the hill.
  • Keep following the path before taking a sharp left through a gate in to the campsite and back to the camp or church.

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Going Lighter – Can you make a vest out of a sleeping bag?

We’re pretty chuffed to have worked with some fairly interesting bloggers in our outdoor testing crew, but one of the most exciting for us has been Antoine Sachs, a french outdoors nut who blogs over at Chronique sans Carbones. When he dropped us a line to say that he was going to start making his own gear we were pretty made up, and we asked him to send us his first creation. 7 months later a rather interesting package turned up on our doorstep.


Antoines down comforter

arty shot

He’s called it his down comforter, and it can either be used as a quilt, as a wrap around insulation vest/piece that will fit underneath an outer shell, as an under hammock insulation piece, or as a seriously warm blanket inside the house when watching Eastenders (Antoine made us put that bit it in!). We’re pretty bowled over by the weight coming in at just 550g. Here’s some more photos of it lying nonchalantly on our conference room table.


dyneema cording

take it from the top

One of the issues with sleeping bags for those looking to reduce the weight of their pack is the dead weight of insulation underneath the sleeping bag that you lie on. As it’s compressed, it offers no warmth at all. The comforter gets rid of this wasted insulation by acting as a quilt with ties to fasten either under your body or under your mattress so that just your top half is insulated. It then has drawcords at the at the top and bottom with your sleeping mattress underneath insulating you from the ground.

You can also with a little fiddling use it as an insulated vest, wrapping it around your head and Torso. We’ve yet to perfect the knack but we’ll hopefully have an online Skype demo from Antoine soon. If that works well it would mean the weight savings from having a sleeping bag and jacket combined would be substantial.

The one we have been sent is a size medium with 350g of 860 European Fill down on the inside. The quality of the piece is immediately apparent, it lofted faster than a speeding bullet. He’s currently using Yeti to manufacture it, but this could change. We’ve stocked Yeti in the past and know that their stuff is on a par with Western Mountaineering as a comparison.

Antoine reckons it will work down to -10 as an insulation piece under a hard shell or external jacket. Your jacket would need to be a little baggier than normal for the comforter to loft and work properly. As a sleeping system he thinks it’s more suitable down to 0c, possibly -5c if you use a close bivvy bag to help trap air more effectively.

top drawcord

We had a chance to test it this weekend, and based on our feedback and others, Antoine is looking to make some adjustments to the connectors. In the meantime the question we want to ask you is, if we stocked something like this, would you be interested in it? What would you expect to pay for the comforter?

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Freshly baked Keen

It’s that time of year when the brands come a calling and we get a sneak peak in to what they have coming up for Autumn / Winter 2012. Today it was the turn of the lovely Jilly from Keen who usually brings us cake, but in true new year style brought apples. For the record Jilly, it’s cake all the way please for the Webtogs crew…..

Two things caught our eye, first up, the Brice, an urban trekking boot and shoe. It looks different with no heel break giving you whole sole traction. It’s got the traditional Keen dry waterproof layer but with an additional perforated foam section around the membrane to pump out hot air.

look no heel break! 

ladies brice boots

lasses brice shoes

blokes brice boots

lads brice shoes

kumas favourite

These are pretty multipurpose, we can see ourselves heading out and about in town and straight on to some tracks in these, and the colours are fab. We’re loving the green in particular.  £110 for the boots £105 for the shoes

Next up the return of a favourite with the KeenKlamath coming back on the scene.  Good torsion control, external heel support, quality leather on the outside, it looks traditional but with a modern twist. Great for hills in the UK where keeping the elements out is the all important part.

The klamath is back and looking mean

klamath got soul


klamath heel support


 Now, when’s Autumn due again?

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Winter on the Missisippi

This is another post from Guest Blogger Michael Barratt who is walking the length of Missisipi in aid of AHMSA –  helping educational projects in Columbia. Webtogs are proud to sponsor him.

December has brought me to the last month I can be in the USA. With the visa waiver I am only allowed to spend three months in the USA, so today I will be flying out of New Orleans (I have not finished the trek yet obviously, New Orleans was just the cheapest place to fly out of) back to Bogota, Colombia to spend Christmas with my fiance Camila and her family. This is going to be a very welcome break let me tell you. I will return to finish the remaining 500kms as soon as possible in 2012.

snow trekking It has been a good month that brought many more great memories, but also it brought me the cold weather and also a little snow. The cold weather started to get to my body a little, especially my achillies tendon. It got to a stage where in the mornings I could not even walk and I would have to hobble along for the first hour until it warmed up and stretched out a little. I was to find out I had developed tendonitus,so I had to shack up in a motel for a few days and live on Ibuprofen. It was amazing how quickly it healed after a few days like that, and it worked out great as the days I ended up in the motel, a huge storm hit with flood warnings in the area, so I was able to enjoy the view from my window from the warmth of my bed.

wrapped up in my Rab sleeping bagFinding my way eventually to Memphis it was nice to arrive there, marking off the three quarter marker of the trek. I was only able to get 50kms past Memphis when I had to start hitch hiking towards New Orleans to get my flight. I ran into an amazing bunch of people all hooked up with the Newspaper association in the states of Mississippi and Lousiana who were good enough to drive me all the way from Tunica (which is the town I got to before stopping) to New Orleans. With many stops along the way, doing interviews and meeting people connected to the media, I arrived in New Orleans 3 days after. Having met these great people along the route that I will be following on my return, I am really looking forward to the next stretch of the trek. The river itself is going to be a lot harder to follow as it is like a giant wiggly snake from Memphis on, compared to the nice, straight Mississippi river from the north. But I guess it will be a change of scenery which is always a good thing.

walking onSo as for now I am heading back to Colombia to spend the break at a little farm in the coffe region with my loved ones. My body is sore and I am really looking forward to being around family again.

I will be in touch January to let you all know the date of my return to the states. I hope everyone has a great Christmas and a happy new year, I know I will be enjoying it….

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Top 5 Outdoor iPhone Applications

We reckon this blog post might get a few hackles up, there has been some intense debate in the office on this subject and there still isn’t agreement on all of them! We wanted to see what apps we were all using when heading out and about, so without further ado, let’s get straight in to our Top 5 Outdoors Apps in reverse order.

5) Google Earth – FREE Has been around for a while, and it’s always been a fantastic jaw dropper to show just what that Interwebby thing can do. We love it though for the simple fact that it’s no good at route planning or tracking, but does enable us to just fly amongst the hills, dream and plan our next jaunt out and about while flying like a bird.

Go Sky Watch Planeterium4)  Go Sky Watch Planetarium – £2.49 Our favourite toy when we are wild camping and looking at the night sky. We really like the fact that you don’t have to touch the screen to navigate the sky and the display automatically shows correctly whatever angle you hold it at. You can ask it to point out Stars and Planets easily, and you have a groovy red version that keeps your night vision, or enables you to pretend you are on a Romulan battlecruiser.

Grid Point GB3)  Gridpoint GB – FREE Feels like a bit of a Ronseal advert this one but it does do exactly what it says on the tin. It simply gives you your ordnance survey grid reference for where you are. Pretty handy in a white out or if you are lost. Only useful if you have a map with you, we nonethless think it’s pretty darn handy if you do get in the schtuck and want your phone as a backup to let you know where you are.

Gorilla Cam2) Gorillacam – FREE Taking photos when you are out and about in the hills is part of the outdoors experience for a lot of us and helps preserve the memories. The best camera as a photographer will often tell you, is the one you have with you, so although I have a nice compact, my iPhone is nearly always with me and has probably recorded more journeys. Gorillacam tweaks the functionality of the default camera to add loads of useful features from an anti-shake facility, rapid fire shooting mode, autosave, grid overlay, bubble level, press anywhere to shoot & time lapse mode. Pretty handy and has now replaced the standard camera application for me on the homepage.

Viewranger1) Viewranger – £1.99 – £14.99  Our numero uno by some distance. There are a fair few GPS and navigation apps out there now, including classics such as Memory Map, but the one that stood tall in our eyes was Viewranger. Many people now have smartphones, so rather than lashing out on a brand new GPS, why not make use of the power that you have in your pocket? We have already reviewd it back in May and it has without fail been our most used outdoor application. There are two main choices, a £1.99 open maps version or a £14.99 version with credits to download Ordnance Survey or other local maps. Living in the middle of nowhere we love the ability to buy and download a map instantly, plus the maps work without having any signal. They also have a buddy beacon which enables you to track your friends, and link up to either their own service or Social Hiking to show your route real time and share your journey with others. From our point of view it also adds a safety element ensuring you have two maps with you when you head out.

 

So there we have our top 5 outdoor iPhone apps. Highly subjective and not without some heated debate in the office! We would have included Andriod aps as well but it looks like our office is filled with iPhones only (plus an Experian and one Blackberry) so forgive us for not including them this time around. What are your favourite outdoor apps and why? If you are an Android user, are there any other apps you have on the dark side we don’t have access to?

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